I work in IT services companies and I've seen several colleagues and/or friends of mine that are in power positions (project leader, tech expert...) take on too many responsibilities, with the consequence of severely impacting their private life because they work a lot of extra hours (unpaid&untraced) so their projects don't fail.

Overtime work reduces the time to spend with their families at home if they have one, and/or the time to spend on hobbies, and it also comes with a great deal of additional stress. Recently, one of them got sudden 2-weeks leave because they were so close to burnout even the company realized it would be worse to let the situation go further. Another has shown complete relapse in an habit they had previously spent a lot of effort for years, even though they had been so iron-willed about it before.

According to me, they are risking their physical and mental health in a situation where it is not needed - the IT sector is thriving at the time, and the salary is enough. The way I see it, they are used to taking on responsibilities but have trouble recognizing or setting up a limit to the workload they take on. They are in positions where they feel that they alone are responsible of the success of a project, but in my opinion, it's also the company's responsibility to allow enough 'resources' (aka, people) for projects to be completed. The company (or at least the involved levels of management) are aware that the workload is too much to be done in the theoretical work hours, but as the work is finished in overtime, there's no problem and thus no need to add more resources.

(The companies I'm talking about are not small companies that would fail if a project fail. One of them is 40 000 people and the projects are 5 to 25 people - not a game changer.)


I'm both worried for my friends and pissed at the companies for taking advantage of responsible people. But we're not that close of friends ; I might miss crucial context elements ; I suspect it's not my place to do anything about that, and anyway, any change in the situation will have to come from the involved people and not from an outsider.

But in the assumption that they might be in a situation from which they could and should get out, are there ways in which I could discuss the subject with them to help them acknowledge (or progress toward the acknowledgment) that there's an issue that's not going to disappear and need to be addressed?

For example, right now, I'm thinking about asking them if they could give me an estimate of their real work hours for the past weeks, or asking them 'what would be the limit where you would put your foot down?' in the hope to make them consider the current situation in regard to this limit...

PS: not putting this in Workplace SE because either I haven't ever worked in the same company as my friend, or I'm not working anymore in the same company. I'll ask there if it's best, though.

Udate answering comments

Regarding company culture about overtime, speaking of the one I used to work in:

  • It's considered as normal to work some extra-hours, for developpers as well as project leaders, though for the last, it's often in the form of working at home to work on files (so a bit harder for me to estimate their actual overtime).
  • It's unofficially frowned upon to put in extra-hours without your boss authorization, and if you ask for that, they'll tell you that you were not ordered to do overtime so you shouldn't have done so. This would probably go against your reputation in the company and impact your chance of augmentation or promotion.

While I don't like that overtime is the normal, what I'm worried about here is more extra-hours than usual, even for people in their position. For at least one of them, it's evenings and weekends, in a way that does not seem sustainable or healthy to me.

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  • since you're essentially asking how you can ask your friends if your evaluation of their work life balance is accurate and if they are happy with it I would say this is an interpersonal issue, hopefully someone here will have some good answers for you – BKlassen Dec 4 at 21:32
  • How does the culture of the company view unpaid extra hours ? Are they expected ? Frowned upon ? I know that in some environment, there's a lot of social pressure to overwork (banking and startups come to mind) – Aserre Dec 5 at 8:55
  • It is also possible that any overtime is unpaid by virtue of the employee being above a certain salary grade, i.e. the company expects you not to account for any extra hours spent working because it will not pay or reimburse you in another way (this was the norm in a couple of jobs I had). – GretchenV Dec 5 at 8:59
  • 1
    I have some 'workaholic' tendencies, probably partly because I hit my stride late in the day and can be very focused and productive mainly from 4-6pm. However, I am needed in the office early (meetings, etc), so just changing to a later schedule doesn't make an easy solution to the problem of me regularly pulling 10-12 hour days. One of my coworkers, on his way out, has been gently reminding me that it's time to go home, which breaks my focus enough for me to notice the time and consider finding a stopping place to leave the office. Mildly annoying, but helpful and effective. – Meg 2 days ago

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